Â£250,000 redevelopment breathes new life into Doncaster arcade
There may have been shops closing in the town centre - but Doncaster businessman David Singh is helping with the fightback.
Mr Singh has just overhauled one empty building to bring it back into use - and now he has his eyes on bigger challenges.
He and wife Senita have just completed the Â£250,000 redevelopment of the former Hayes Amusements on St Sepulchre Gate. But he is also considering a bid to take on the former Doncaster Post Office building on Scot Lane.
He has also recently refurbished the Horse and Jockey pub in the town centre.
The former amusement arcade, opposite the town centre McDonalds, is following a model which Mr Singh believes to be a good way forward - by mixing businesses with town centre living accommodation.
Now renamed Singh's Arcade, the building has two businesses on the ground floor, a cafe and a grocers.
But the upstairs floors have been transformed into modern living accommodation - rooms with shared kitchens.
Mr Singh said: "We bought the building in July 2017. The plan was to convert the upstairs into some form of residential accommodation. The shops are now open. We are finishing the residential accommodation.
"We are interested in potentially doing something with the former General Post Office, and we've been in talks about potentially buying it. We'd like to convert it to luxury apartments, city space like they are doing in places like Leeds.
"It would bring customers for the town centre bars and cafes, and into businesses after 5.30pm. It's not like that in Doncaster at present.
"We would have shops or office space downstairs, and would talk to potential tenants who would be interested in that.
"I have been worried about Doncaster town centre. But I think there is a positive message, and I think we need more residential living in the town centre, to get people using the facilities, and I would hope what we are doing is going to happen more and more.
"But I also think that business rates need to be lower for shops. We have seen places like C&A , BHS, and House of Fraser going , but I think there's still a place for niche businesses.
"I think parking it still to expensive. I know it is more expensive in Leeds, but in Leeds people are parking and then going to Selfridges. That's not the case in Doncaster. I would like to see a system where you can park for free as long as you buy something, with tickets being validated by businesses when you spend.
"I would love to see more chains and people like Gucchi and Armanui."
The new Back in Time cafe which has opened in the new arcade is being run by two teaching assistants who have seen their hours cut this year.
Petra Palenikova, aged 28, has been working at Sterling and Lakeside, while Michaela Stolarova. 31, has been working at Waverley, Hawthorne, and Ash Hill.
Petra said: "We used to work full time but we have fewer hours now, so we have gone into business."
Doncaster Council says it cannot change the level of business rates. A spokesman said under statutory arrangements, business rates are collected locally on the basis of a nationally determined rate in the pound charged on the rateable value of the property. The multiplier is set nationally by Central Government and local rateable values are provided by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).